By Meghan Palmer and Danielle Dolinski-Sloan
Things have changed a lot in the last few weeks. You are no longer going to school. Your favorite after school activities might be cancelled. People around you may be worried or stressed. When things change suddenly, it’s normal to have all sorts of feelings. All of the changes might make you scared. You might be angry that you can’t see your friends at school right now. Or you might even be glad that you get to stay home!
Whatever feelings you are having are okay. It’s also very common to have more than one feeling about a situation at a time. Part of you may be glad that you aren’t in school, but part of you might really miss being there. It’s okay to feel both ways about it.
Sharing your feelings with an adult can help. If you let a trusted adult know how you are feeling, they may be able to help you think of ways to feel better. Letting an adult know what is going on might be hard. You might not know what words to use, or how to start. That’s okay! Here is a short guide to help you:
Step One: Get a trusted adult’s attention. Say you have something to talk to them about, or you can ask if you can talk with them about something that’s on your mind. If they are in the middle of something important, they may ask you to wait. You can ask them to help you find a good time to sit down and talk. It’s okay to remind them later if it seems like they forgot. Once you have their attention, it’s time to…
Step Two: Choose one or more feeling words. It’s okay for you to have LOTS of feelings. For example, sometimes when we are feeling angry, we may also be feeling annoyed or sad. If you are having a hard time describing how you feel, you can use the wheel below for ideas. It may seem silly, but it might really help!
Step Three: Use “I” statements. It can be very helpful to focus on letting the person know how you are feeling. If someone has done something to make you feel upset, let them know by saying “I feel upset when this person…” This is a helpful way to let an adult know what happened and how it affected you. Sometimes, you may have feelings that have nothing to do with another person--they may be about a situation, or they may seem to come from nowhere at all! It’s still okay to feel that way, and it’s still helpful to tell someone what is going on using an “I feel” statement.
Step Four: Ask for help. Ask your trusted adult to help you figure out how to feel better. If you are feeling scared or anxious, that might mean looking for a distraction, like reading, playing a game, doing yoga, or writing in a journal. If you are sad or lonely, that might mean helping you set up a phone call with a friend, or making a plan to “meet” over a video chat. There are lots of ways to cope with these changes, and you don’t have to do it alone.
You might even want to try some ways of helping yourself feel better. There are lots of options out there to help you cope, such as the ones in this article.
Step Five: Ask yourself how that went. Did they help you find a way to feel better? What other adults could be trusted to support you? People often rely on their aunts, uncles, teachers, guidance counselors, or a friend or neighbor’s parent. If there aren’t any other adults you would want to talk to, is there a friend you think would be able to help?
If you are a teenager, you can look for a trusted adult to talk to, or try out Teenline! Teenline is a hotline that allows you to talk to other teens about any problems you may be facing, or just to connect with someone who understands. Call (310) 855-HOPE or (800) TLC-TEEN (nationwide toll-free) or go to https://teenlineonline.org to check it out!
If you ever feel like your emotions are too much to handle on your own, or if you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or another person, it’s important to always reach out to someone for help. If you are a little younger, try talking to a trusted adult, a teacher, or a guidance counselor.
For more information on ways to take care of your mental health, we recommend this article on coping with coronavirus.